On 24th December every year a train leaves Mumbai with 400 young Indians on board. These participants represent the hopes, aspirations and energy of a young entrepreneurial India on the move. An India, where the energetic vision of its young population is helping create social and economic enterprises. They will travel over 8000 kilometers draping a virtual garland of train tracks across the country, exploring it and meeting change makers who are shaping India through enterprise. Fifteen days later when they arrive back in Mumbai; they would have met leaders and institutions as diverse as R. Elango, the visionary Panchayat leader in Kuthambakkam, Joe Madiath of Gram Vikas, The Arvind Eye Care System founded by the legendary Dr. Venkatswamy and the Barefoot College in Tilonia setup and run by Buker Roy; among others. These 450 participants will understand and analyze how these enterprises were founded and nurtured through those dark nights every change maker has to go through till they awaken to the bright morning of a sustainable institution. In this awakening or Jagriti, in this dogged persistence they will find a new energy, a spark that we hope will ignite a desire to be change makers.
Awakening the entrepreneurial spirit is the motto of this journey – Jagriti Yatra. The journey will touch the four corners of India, and return with a group bound by their love for the country. A similar journey has been going on since 2008 and proved transformative for those who traveled on it. Through the medium of a panel discussion and documentary it spread its message to millions of others. Not just Indians but a number of international participants from Africa, USA and Europe also took part and went away with a deep insight of this emerging India.
Why is this focus on Enterprise Led Development important for India? Why is it targeted on those in the middle of the Indian demographic profile, and how does the Yatra promote it? Our view is that Indian demographics is less Prahlad’s pyramid, it is more like a diamond; a diamond in the rough. The middle of this diamond consists of 50 crore Indian living between Rs. 40 and Rs. 120 per day. A large proportion of this population is below 25 years of age and an additional 22 crore will be added to the workforce by 2025 years. This young India is not destitute; it has a roof on its head and food on the table. They do not lack energy, but often don’t find a purpose. When this energetic India does not find purpose and employment it takes to the streets, or worse to the gun. The top of the diamond is prospering as it remains connected to the global economy. The bottom of the diamond gets attention from government and charitable organizations; it is the middle where discontent is brewing. We see this in the numbing act of a farmers committing suicide, it boils over in a student riot at a small pretext. Top down handouts and subsidies only strengthen a feeling of dependence. The country and this middle India seeks a new independence through enterprise.
Enterprise Led Development, or Udyam Janit Vikas, seeks to change the development paradigm from one of dependence to that of taking charge. It seeks to shift the mindset of young India from job seekers to job creators. It seeks to shift the role of government from that of a captain to one of the coach and a catalyst. It seeks to unleash the hidden potential of citizens by coming together around a viable social and economic need, and then show discipline to nurture it into a viable enterprise. In doing so, they create purpose and employment for themselves and provide employment for hundreds of others. The social unrest that we see creeping across society due to a skewed growth pattern can be stemmed and reversed through Enterprise Led Development.
An Enterprise needs an idea, capital and human talent to prosper. The focus of Jagriti is to develop talent by exposing young Indians to social and economic enterprises. More than the bright idea, we see and learn from the gritty need to persevere with an idea or a team, in the many enterprises visited during the journey. As the 2009 Yatra is being readied, we are look forward once more to meeting those change makers who are re-shaping the country 60 years after its independence. As Prasoon Joshi has written for the Jagriti Geet,”Yaron Chalo...badalane ki rut hai”.
The overwhelming learning from the Yatra is one of self-reliance and self-purpose. R. Elango in Kutumbakkam said that in his experience bureaucracy will not stall change if one tries with a convincing social story. In the deepest forests of eastern India, Joe Madiath said that for him Service was not a sacrifice, it was a choice. The spiritual zeal of Dr. V at the Arvind Eye Care systems seemed to exude an energy that over 30 years has created one of the largest eye care centers in the world. We are discovering once again what Gandhi emphasized decades ago - if you find purpose, the means will follow. And we know he too traveled on a train to discover India.
There were lighter moments too. Our train overshooting two stops when it was to pick up a national award winner in water management. The night our participants had to sleep on a platform. The constant shaking a day after the journey ended, as the body adjusted to being on terra firma. Those long sessions in the common room of a moving train, arguing the finer points of a recent visit to a role model and the immense commitment of those who volunteered as facilitators or organizers. The adventure in the journey itself was a learning. This learning was amplified through the different perspectives of 450 young participants, carefully selected for their passion for enterprise.
We seek every citizen’s contribution to sustaining and amplifying this movement. If you are an entrepreneur or work in a large company, help by mentoring young teams on how to scale up their enterprises. Giving mentorship in the old Guru-Shishya tradition is a very Indian contribution. If you can take the rigors and joys of an 15 day journey, apply and join as a facilitator. If you know a deserving individual who will benefit from these travels, sponsor him.